News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Review of Falsified Modern History by Professor Huang Wen-hsiung.  This proved to be a very rich and satisfying book, one which can be read and referred to again and again and which deserves a proper place, front and center, on the vanity bookshelf.  It's chock-full of claims and hypotheses which rub up hard against the grain of the facts and views that one takes for granted if relying on the mainstream media. 
As an aside: it's inevitable that the press is inaccurate because reporters as a rule are overworked, underpaid, and overstuffed with minutiae from morning to night, but have barely two clues as to what it all means at the end of the business day.  Watching C-span confirms this hypothesis in spades.  On the other hand, unlike the ponderous TV anchors employed to parrot second-hand news reports, the actual recorders of news themselves tend to be young and impressionable, which isn't to imply that they're not cynical. Far from it. They're often fast-forwarding through a spate of journalism whose primary significance lies in resume enhancement. The main show is a career in advertising or public relations or some other such field which requires prior experience in pulling the nose of the customers at large. 
As I've mentioned elsewhere, reporters impress me as operating under a number of useful axioms, with a cardinal tenet being that if the reporter himself doesn't understand the subject matter of their own report, it's a sure thing that neither will the readers: ergo, a minor and hopefully deft spinning of the news can be conducted safely with the result that much of the news is indeed spun with the goal of enhancing the color and volume to have it appear more dangerous and sensational than it ever really is. 
If said journalista has not yet written a book, and thus not yet acquired a profound level of sophistication with interpreting the bold spin of colleagues, with reading between the lines of fellow plagiarists, with putting various cherished principles (often developed during pub crawls) to the actual test, or with connecting the dots between ludicrous claims that have exhausted their grand original purpose of enhancing newspaper circulation and personal prestige, then the fellow, when in the role of opinion-maker, is probably not worth listening to.
As opposed to the earlier works of Professor Huang, with their tendency to dawdle and hum and haw, this is a tight high-density piece of work reflecting the impatience of a man with much on his mind and too short a schedule to get it all off his chest.  There's no wasted space; no oatmeal filler; no indigestible skin between one's teeth and the sausage meat.  And rather than wear the reader down with cold fly-blown footnotes and figures, the professor confidently presumes a certain degree of background and sense in his readers and gets straight to his damning hypotheses; of which I am happy to say there are many.  This is a book of ideas, for people with a head for ideas.  As such, it's much to my liking. 
Page 18, he points out that without Japanese strength, Taiwan and Korea would've been colonized by the US or Europe.  American foreign policymakers were eyeing Taiwan during the 1850s and it was the US Civil War which preempted US hegemony.
On the same page the professor dabbles in xenophobia and racialism.  For example, he says that today remains the white man's era and the colonial era.  On the other hand, he says that foolish xenophobic pride kept China behind and blithely ignorant of developments in the rest of the world and that this remains the case today.
On page 20, he says that during the late Ching Dynasty the regime considered sending punitive expeditions to stop Japan from selling out traditional ways in favor of Western ways. The Ching régime expected ordinary Japanese to meet a Chinese invading expedition with flowers in hand.
Also much appreciated is the professor’s use of sarcasm; a naughty no-no in most of academia whose inhabitants only make time for serious topics discussed in serious tones of voice.  Earlier generations of these solemn folks were incapable of giving a serious hearing to the theses of Wilde, Twain or Mencken due to their regrettable belaboring of the pure expression of ideas with wit and humor.  Pedagogues, a surprisingly ignorant and fearful lot that are remarkably given to the security of herd behavior, have a dreadful peer-approved habit of laying out ideas with all the humor of an accountant, as if laying out raw data for a number-crunching machine.  There is a consistent failure to sweeten the pill for readers through levity or any other colorful device that might get the sedentary reader’s blood flowing.  In part, the problem is that most professors, when it gets time to appear in print, become dunderheaded and decline into timid recitalists of the banal.  Even basic statements about human nature, the kind obvious even to teenagers, become heavily footnoted.  The pang of paranoia, the stamp of bovine anxiety, escapes off the page. This chronic worrying over peer-approved disapproval showing up at any corner, a nagging fear of a scholarly Big Brother, mutes voices particularly in an era when the seer Marx and his balderdash are Big Brother and his ideology.
Professions of fealty to the Marxian worldview places intolerable stresses upon honor and integrity, for Marx – a spin-meister, chronic debtor, father of his life-long unpaid maid’s love-child, and failed prophet - was clearly no Oracle.  He was, however, at least a very clever stylist, distracting readers from his exclamations of the unbelievable with loud dramatic images that lifted the imagination and wrapping the rest in a soothing burbling extra-literate diction that impressed the pseudo-literate with a scholarly imprimatur.  Marx was what his acolytes have seldom ever since been: a leader not a follower, an MC not an audience.
Thus he had the chutzpah required to write effectively; even if he chose to write nothing worth reading. Today’s pale imitation roots nervously around the groves of sapience.  The proof lies in the incompetence of not just the herd’s thinking, which consists of a more or less organized chasing of tails, but in the herd’s writing, which is better described as typing. There is no wit and no humor. But of course not.  For humor requires cheery confidence, a will to power, and the dangerous expression of sadistic tendencies on paper.  That is to say, once in print there's no room for denial.
Page 21: the result of employing Western technology but retaining traditional Chinese management practices led directly to loss of the Chinese Navy in just one hour during the Sino-French war.  Japan was only taken seriously when it achieved military victories in the international arena.  In other words, the Chinese régime only listened to force, not to reason.  It was too insular and xenophobic, too apparently successful over the millennia, to take the ideas of other, lesser mortals, seriously.  Imperial China and Korea considered white folk to be animals.
Japan's success was due to wholeheartedly embracing European thinking.  A popular notion in China at the time, and which remains to a certain degree, is that Japan should be grateful to China because it served as a fire wall during the era of European imperialism.  China was carved up by the European powers, thus diverting Europe's attention from Japan.  Great anger among numerous patriotic organizations arose due to Japan's lack of gratitude for China’s sacrifice and in particular for turning around and even invading China.
Similarly, many Koreans versed in history feel that their nation gave Japan its culture and feel betrayed and indignant about being invaded by Japan.
Both of these situations demonstrate anthropomorphizing on the part of Chinese and Korean activists, writers, and, I hesitate to use the word, thinkers. Clearly a nation is not a person, but an amalgam of myriad persons pushing in different directions and operating with self-interest and according to semi-conscious motives that express themselves en masse as social movements and national developments.  National debts are not incurred with the informal exchange of ideas nor due to accidents of diplomatic history that line up in a manner convenient for imaginative sophists and opportunistic hot-heads.  No doubt the more sensible and enlightened of the Chinese and Korean citizenry saw through this mad foolishness that yet captured the attention of the more excitable half-wits.  No doubt the rest of the population paid no more attention to this than they paid to the annual passing of Chanukah.
The professor says that it was Japan's thorough overhaul of its feudal economic structure which enabled it to structure a modern economy and build the military strength necessary to avoid being colonized.  China, on the other hand, in the main kept looking to the past for sure-cures from the mouths of various domestic editions of Nostradamus.
Professor Huang also points out that, contemporary reputation to the contrary, Japan has generally been peaceful.  Prior to 1895, Japan enjoyed 300 years of peace.  Since 1945, there have been 50 years of peace.  On the other hand, China, unlike its contemporary image as an inert faded empire populated by colorful victims, has in fact endured almost constant civil war and insurrections for several thousand years.
He claims the Japanese invasions of Korea and China were designed to preempt China's attack of Japan.  At the time, many writers in China were exhorting the Ching regime to attack Japan in order to avenge Japan's sell out to Western values.  The author claims that Korea was invaded to save it from Chinese hegemony and to modernize it and prevent it from being colonized by Western powers.
The primary reasons that China lost the war with Japan according to the author are budget malfeasance, cutting costs by firing expensive foreign military consultants and foreign sailors at the last minute, and by cutting even more costs by canceling military exercises, reducing ammunition purchases, and so forth.  This resulted in folly such as the Chinese Navy running out of ammunition within the first hour of fighting the French Navy.
Page 43: the author claims Ching Dynasty soldiers engaging in looting sprees at the public's expense, were deemed to be full of bravado and high spirits by various government officials.  On the surface, this seems a difficult claim to swallow, except that last year more than a couple of Japanese politicians came out and praised the gang rape by Japanese university boys of Japanese university gals saying that this was positive evidence of the boys' masculinity and animal spirits.  Perhaps this machismo is a hangover from the feudal era.
On page 44, the author points out the during the Sino-Japan war, the Ching southern fleet refused to fight and instead declared neutrality, hoping that the northern fleet of Li Hong-Chang would be defeated.  Japan fought a modern Republican war, whereas Ching officials did not trust the public and instead issued financial rewards (so many dollars for killing officers, less for killing soldiers, more for killing white soldiers and less for killing black soldiers) and so forth to try keep soldiers motivated and fighting.
After Japan's military defeated Russia’s military, a flood of Chinese students went to Japan where they founded a number of patriotic societies devoted to overthrowing the Ching Dynasty.  Japan's defeat of Russia was considered the first success of a nonwhite nation over a white nation.
On page 52, the author points out that without a Japanese victory over Russia, Manchuria, Korea and Hokkaido would currently belong to Russia.
On page 54, the author tries to defend against the claim that Japan was by nature destined to invade other nations.  This seems to be an up-hill battle not worth fighting.  It’s human nature for the strong to mess with the weak.  Which is as it should be, after all.  Why should Japan be different?
On page 56 and 57, the author expends a great deal of energy defending Japan.  At this point I started to wonder if he feels indebted to Japan given that he’s an emigré from Taiwan and has been very unhappy with the KMT.  Perhaps he's the type who takes up a new citizenship and tries to outdo the locals in being a model citizen and patriot.  I have no evidence for this; it's just a thought.  Something worth keeping in the back of my mind.
On page 58, the author points out that vigorous nations tend to believe their morals are superior to those of other nations around them.
The author also points out that in Chinese history, the dynasties were never able to keep the peace or deal properly with the management of the country for long.  Only invaders were able to keep the peace and only prior to their becoming acculturated and Chinese in their outlook.  Thus, the Manchu invaders were welcomed to Beijing by the residents who sent out envoys to meet them outside the Chinese wall.  By corollary, when the Manchus became Sinofied, all hell broke loose and a number of racking rebellions rocked the national scene such as the white turban rebellion and the Taiping rebellion.
According to Mao Tse-tung and Chang Kai-shek, everything from Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia to Nepal, Sikkim and Burma belongs to China.  Some writers include North America as part of the sacred territory of China.  For example, in Shangainese the pronunciation of Alaska means my home.  Ergo, it belongs to China. No joke.  In 1954, Khrushchev said to Mao that using this type of logic, China in fact belongs to Mongolia because Genghis Khan conquered China.
Page 68: Chinese cannibalism is limited to the Chinese, with the barbarians on the fringe not recorded as people-eaters.  As Chinese culture proceeds south, major incidents of cannibalism appear in the Chinese records.  The author explains this as the result of the tradition of having massive families which, high mortality rates notwithstanding, regularly generated excessive population densities that approached the levels of the modern developed countries (there was often a doubling of China's population with each generation). In the end, there was extensive overdevelopment of the land, desertification, and soon a massive disaster in the pipeline. Time and time again.
On page 67, the author mentions the famous historical figure Huang Chao who established a human meat processing factory to feed his 500,000 troops.  The meat came from slaughtering several thousand civilians a day and was primarily used in making noodles.
With drought or prolonged battles and campaigns, food runs out and after everything else resource-wise is exhausted, people become targeted as a food source, especially by the military.  There are many records of this, both in Chinese, Arabic, and in the writings of Marco Polo.  The logistics divisions of various armies openly hunted people on occasion and typically prepared human meat for storage by drying it, salting it, etc.
Due to the mystical benefits of eating human flesh, mainlanders hunted aborigines in Taiwan during the Ching Dynasty, with Xiamen becoming a main port doing the sort of business.  Because China was a society in which the poor supported a heavy load of several social echelons, there was a constant stream of rebellions for 2000 years.  Many Chinese left and became diaspora.  Prior to the Spring Autumn period, almost no record of cannibalism in China exists.   After, there are plenty of records beginning with the Chin Dynasty.  Human meat becomes a commodity available in large cities (ex: during the late Ming Dynasty, male meat cost seven cash, women eight cash; during the Taiping rebellion inflation set in and the price rose from 90 wen to 130 wen).
On page 70 to the professor points out that human organs were also popular with apothecaries.
On page 80, he points out that Sun Yat-sen helped overthrow the Ching Empire and imperialism, so why cannot Taiwan also be free and independent of the present Empire and its imperialism?
On page 93, the professor claims that there was no Sino-Japan war because China was not a country at the time.  It was disunited and managed by independent warlords.  It was for this reason that Japan never formally declared war in fact.  When Japan invaded China, it put an end to warlords endlessly fighting and helped ensure a united China in the end.  Mao Tse-tung publicly stated that if it were not for the invasion of Japan, he would not have been unable to unite China and win the war against Chang Kai-shek.
Page 94: prior to the Sino Japan war, China had engaged in 150 years of civil war.  Mao said Sun Yat-sen's claim that the Chinese are historically a peace loving people was a lie.  Mao said instead that they were historically a warring people.  Sun was a bumbler and failure; Mao a survivor and victor.  Who would you trust as a better judge of the nation and its history?
Page 96: the author states that warlord fighting was often a proxy for the foreign Imperial powers.  He says the same was the case for the Sino Japan war in which the chief parties managing the engagement where Russia, Japan, and United States.
Page 98: Japan is considered an invader because it failed to establish a long-term government.  The Huns, Mongols, and Manchus are not considered invaders because they established the successful dynasties.
Page 103: the author states that the Japanese were welcomed by the local population into many cities and says that in fact, historically speaking, this was the case regardless of who the invader was.  Whether the KMT, warlords, international imperialists, Communists, or someone else, they were universally greeted.  With new régimes there was always a hope by the civilian population of better treatment.  In the case of Japan, it enjoyed a reputation for law and order.
Page 107: Manchuria's independence was akin to the establishment of Israel by England.  The Manchurians were not Chinese and wanted independence.  Sunday Yat-sen agreed to separation, believing that the Manchus were not Chinese.  The Chinese Communist Party said Israel is just like Japanese Manchuria, a puppet state.  Imagine what repatriated Jews would think of that statement after being banished from Israel for 2000 years.  Now, of course, the Chinese Communist Party is buddies with Israel and buys military hardware from it regularly.
Manchuria was recognized by half the world's nations and under Japan it became prosperous.  Under Chinese rule, Tibet was mostly destroyed.  Manchuria originally had an economy based upon lumber that under Japan to developed its own industries such as automobile plants and fighter plane plants. Sounds like more imperialism benefiting the locals which is, of course, how imperialism typically works.
That’s it for now. I’m about to fall fully asleep.

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